The future is friendly: making the link between innovation and CSR

By Helen Goodland

Construction InnovationInnovation is a hot topic these days but it has generally been discussed in the context of hardcore technology. But investing in innovation has a softer side and the results can have a far greater impact on bottom line than buying the latest gadget. 

Re-thinking business approaches in order to compete effectively involves getting to grips with those hard-to-pin-down issues such as corporate social responsibility. 

There is a large body of evidence that demonstrates companies do well by doing good. For example, attracting and retaining skilled, technologically-savvy millennials means that your company must be cooler, friendlier, and more passionate about what you do than the competition. And it doesn’t end there – not only do they demand opportunity and respect, but they want to know what your company stands for. 

At the same time, forward-looking owners are starting to demand more from their suppliers in the form of ethical purchasing requirements and social procurement. They want to know they are buying from companies that treat their workers fairly and treat the planet with respect.

The Canadian Construction Association recently adopted a Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) policy statement which says, “Canadian Construction Association (CCA) recognizes that corporate social responsibility (CSR) is a rapidly evolving issue and affects companies differently depending on their size, location and specialization. CCA recognizes the importance of CSR, and encourages companies to voluntarily undertake initiatives that enable them to operate in an economically, socially, and environmentally sustainable manner.”

Many construction companies have their own CSR policies but the challenge is how to demonstrate those commitments in a way that is meaningful and visible to employees, owners, communities, and society at large. Construction companies in the UK have taken matters into their own hands and developed a program for industry by industry.

The UK’s Considerate Construction Scheme aims to improve the image and perception of the construction industry by seeking sustainable solutions, minimizing waste, and effectively using resources within the industry. It offers an intriguing model for B.C. companies seeking to set themselves apart in a very competitive world.

Set up by construction industry leaders as a non-profit independent organization in 1997, the Considerate Construction Scheme is designed to encourage best practices beyond statutory requirements. Supported by government, the UK’s construction industry has pledged to continuously gain a positive image. Companies are encouraged to register all relevant construction activity under the Considerate Construction Scheme. 

The opt-in program provides monitoring of registered websites, companies, and suppliers and transparently displays posters around construction sites where name, telephone, and site manager contacts are clearly displayed. A prominently-displayed 1-800 number provides a 24/7 response to project neighbours should they have any questions or experience anything untoward. 

In an effort to improve the construction industry’s image, the UK scheme has been tackling issues such as occupational cancers, mental health, safety, best practice sharing, and apprenticeship training. The website ( is an extensive best-practice guide that supports workers at all levels as they navigate sustainable and ethical solutions to real-life situations. Awards are offered to companies with the best records of performance.

Companies that sign up to join the Considerate Construction Scheme are bound by a Code of Considerate Practice, which is comprised of the following:

  • Considerate constructors seek to improve the image of the construction industry by striving to promote and achieve best practice under the Code.
  • The Code of Considerate Practice outlines the Scheme's expectations and describes those areas that are considered fundamental for registration with the Scheme.
  • The Code is in five parts. Each section of the Code contains an aspirational supporting statement and four bullet points, which represent the basic expectations of registration with the Scheme. 
  1. Care about appearance
  2. Respect the community
  3. Protect the environment
  4. Secure everyone's safety
  5. Value their workforce
  • The Code of Considerate Practice applies to all registered sites, companies, and suppliers regardless of size, type, or location.

Currently, there is no such scheme in Canada but such a program would lend consistency and transparency to both contractors and owners. However, B.C. is generally ahead of the game when it comes to embracing sustainability. Embracing such a scheme would positively reinforce the industry’s position as a forward-looking, fair, tolerant, and just place to work and conduct business. Hopefully, it is not too long before such a program emerges on this side of the Atlantic.

In the meantime, support is at hand for B.C. businesses in the form of innovation bootcamps that will help businesses uncover and develop the value that lies in investing in innovation, including CSR.

Helen Goodland, RIBA, MBA, is principal of Brantwood Consulting and co-founder of Building Technology Innovations. She recently completed the B.C. Construction Innovation Project for the B.C. Construction Association. She serves on the Canadian Construction Association’s CSR Taskforce and is chair of the United Nations Sustainable Building and Climate Initiative’s Materials Technical Advisory Committee.

This article first appeared in the Spring 2017 issue of SICA's Construction Review Magazine. To read the entire magazine click here.

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